CNN made the correct decision in severing ties with Reza Aslan for his vulgar tweet about President Donald Trump, according to religious groups offended by the Iranian-American author's controversial religious show Believer that sparked outrage worldwide.
While Believer positioned itself as a spiritual adventure series aimed at enlightening audiences and inspiring religious tolerance, those offended by the show claimed it misrepresented and undermined their faiths, giving center stage to fringe members, bizarre practices, and casting entire religions in a strange, freakish light that encouraged religious xenophobia and hatred. Since its debut episode in March, many religions and groups spoke out, pressuring CNN to cancel a series they called bigoted, intentionally misleading and manipulative.
U.S. Representative Tulsi Gubbard of Hawaii, the only Hindu member of Congress, tweeted shortly after the show's first episode that it served to "increase people's misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism."
"Aslan and CNN didn't just throw a harsh light on a sect of wandering ascetics to create shocking visuals—as if touring a zoo," she Tweeted, "but repeated false stereotypes about caste, karma and reincarnation that Hindus have been combating [sic] tirelessly."
Prominent public speaker and philanthropist Shalab Kumar called the show a "disgusting attack on Hinduism," and a petition by Hindu Mahasabha of America demanding that CNN cancel the anti-religious series quickly gained over 21,000 signatures.
Hindu groups were given support in their outrage by numerous religious and secular news outlets, including Religion News Service, Huffington Post, the LA Times, and UK's The Independent, using epithets like "unbelievable" "disgusting" and "reckless" to describe Believer.
Numerous politicians, religious leaders, scholars and religions, including one religion referenced within Believer, the ubiquitous Church of Scientology, spoke out against the show during its run and voiced solidarity with Hindu outrage. The Scientology Church issued a statement at the time which condemned Believer's perverse depiction of faith at a time when religious misunderstanding and conflict is rampant."
Additionally, the Scientology equivalent of the ADL, "STAND," (a semi-acronym for "Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination"), featured numerous Believer related statements, news items, and blogs during the show's run, one of which was titled "Reza Aslan, a wolf in sheep's clothing." After the cancellation of the show, STAND Director Edward Parkin said "Believer made a mockery of religious studies and was anathema to religious communities and thinking individuals everywhere. Scientologists and our friends and partners from other faiths could not be more pleased that Reza Aslan has lost a platform for religious bigotry and discrimination. I trust the show will be forgotten as quickly as a bad dream."
Social media has erupted in reaction to the canceling of Believer, with opinion skewing towards support of the cancellation coming from both people of faith as well as Trump supporters.
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